This post is completely un-food related (except for the cheese fries and a chicken soft taco). It's really more of a human interest piece, or rather a canine interest piece, maybe just a way for me to grieve, I am not sure. But it is a story that must be told, because I believe there are those special dogs who come into our lives and touch us so deeply that we are forever changed. Thus it was for me.
You see, for the last 12, almost 13 years, I have had the undeniable good fortune to be owned by a miniature schnauzer named Otto'Ban Von Duesenberg.
Otto for short, but with many variations given by friends and family, from Otto-Bot to Otto Von Tittsling (inventor and kraut) and even Crack Puppy (he was very much a terrier in his youth and well into his middle age)
The beginning of the story is pretty standard. Back at the end of '97/beginning of '98, I was looking for a canine companion of the schnauzer persuasion; a friend found an ad in the newspaper and told me about it; I went to the house; and sat on the floor amidst the puppies. Otto came right up to me, bit my finger then crawled into my lap and went to sleep. I had been chosen. That was how he got his name... Otto is old German for "Loyal One"
He was very tiny, not that he was significant in stature as an adult, but what he lacked in physical size, he more than made up for in charm, poise, charmiza and just plain craziness. (I don't know how to spell Hutzpa)
He loved to hang out on my foot while I would watch a movie, such as the Dark Crystal...
After which he would regale me with his impersonation of FizzGig...
or play "Where's Otto" by hiding amongst the pillows.
and yes, as puppies are ever want to do, he would even get into some form of mischief, such as raiding the garbage can... I still have NO idea what that is in his mouth.
Ever the patient one, he would wait vigilantly until he heard the sound of my Ford Escort, signaling that I had returned home from work.
At which point he would always greet me with MASSIVE quantities of exuberance.
In May of 98, he flew with me to Portland for a visit with my family. (He was still small enough to fit under the seat) His charms were immediately apparent when he befriended our family companion, Benji.
Although it DID take a little time for Benji to warm up to the idea that his home had been invaded by a little black fur ball of rambunctious.
While we were there, Otto decided that it was his duty to patrol the fence line and keep an eye on the Dairy Goats. He loved my parents farm, being a constant dew soaked mess. LOL So I took him around to some of my favorite spots. Like Crown Point State Park and Vista House, where I use to be the janitor during the summer months in high school. I was able to take some beautiful pictures of what I consider to truly be Gods Country.
This was the first and last time we made the trip home together via plane. By Otto's first birthday, he was just a little to big to fit under the seat, and airplane cargo holds are not pressurized, this is why you are not suppose to put shampoo bottles in your luggage. So from that point on, we drove the 1175 miles together... a boy and his dog, cruising up I-5 stopping every 4 hours or so to gas up and take a much needed break.....
Speaking of Otto's First Birthday... He was ecstatic over his cake... LOL
It didn't last long.
Otto didn't change much over the years. Well, aside from the tendency to be "frog dog", which began at about age 5....
He was always a puppy in so many ways, always loving, always a confidant, always playful and very much in love with life in general... and his rope
and squeak bone...
which he always held by one end with crossed paws.
Though, his absolute favorite toy, or should I say "toys", since I had to buy about 10 of them, was the Squeak Dog... He loved (chewed) those things to pieces.
Even at the age of 11, he still loved to play "Where's Otto" although after my decor changed, it wasn't really that hard to find him anymore... ;) But I didn't let on...
Otto had never been sick a day in his life. But in November of 2007, while in Portland for Thanksgiving with family, Otto developed bladder stones. Due to the nature of the trip, I could not have him operated on up there, although I probably could have gotten an extension on my vacation if I had REALLY pushed the issue. So, a mad dash drive through the night, with strep throat, cause of course, I had to be sick too, and 15 hours later we made it to the emergency room in San Diego to have him evacuated and scheduled for surgery.
And after a long regime of walking every 4 hours for 2 weeks, then every 5 hours for 2 weeks, then 6, then 7, then 8 and finally able to sleep through the night, and finally 9 hours (thank God I only lived 15 minutes from work) Otto made a full recovery. Well, at least mostly. I stand by this and forever will, he was never quite "right" after that... I don't know if the u/d "prescription" food (which is a big joke as far as I am concerned) he was placed on was responsible or what. Oh, he was just an joyful, happy, playful and loving as ever. But there was just something tugging at the back of my mind. It was little things. Otto NEVER had accidents, even during potty training, he only had 1 or 2. He was the model puppy.....
And he still never had accidents at home... But when we would travel, I would take him out and he would do his business, but 1 hour later he would have an accident. He would periodically have issues negotiating the stairs at my apartment. Never an extendedly, just periodically, like he had pulled a muscle, or something... Which in my logical mind made sense, because of the surgery. So I would carry him up and down the stairs until he seemed to be OK again, which was usually about a day or 2... Then he would be fine for months, but it would happen again.
At his Check-up exam after the surgery in Oct. 2008, he had a clean bill of health. (Yay!) The X-rays came back completely clean and Otto was pronounced fit as a fiddle. But still this issue with the stairs and the traveling persisted... But Otto never complained, whined, or went off his food, so I just assumed I was being paranoid. I am SO unbelievably stupid sometimes.
Then at the beginning of this month, Thursday, August '09. All hell broke loose. Otto began drinking tons of water and simply letting the "tide" flow. This resulted in potty breaks within 3 minutes of him drinking ANY water at all. So I took him to the vet the next day thinking he had a bladder infection. Saturday the test results came back. Otto had a bladder infection. OK, sure, antibiotics and he would be fine... BUT he had also developed diabetes.
I blame myself. I really do. I should have been as vigilant in my duty as Otto's companion, as Otto was in his companionship with me. I think of myself as being fairly educated enough in nutrition, at least from a human stand point, to know that he had been eating junk food for almost 2 years. But that is another story, and I really can't get into it now, cause I am going to get REALLY angry.
Sadly as a single individual with a full time job and limited funds, "Cause in San Diego we PAY for the Sunshine" Bah! A drawn out regime of sticking Otto and checking glucose, stabbing him with insulin and running back and forth to the vet every other day for a month, was just not feasible. All for Otto to live a compromised life. For what? Maybe another 2 years before it finally caught up with him... NO. Otto has more dignity than that. And he would never understand what I was doing to him 3-4 times a day.
Thus is was that, as freakin melodramatic as it sounds, I made the hardest decision I think I have ever made.
After 2 weeks of spending as much time together as possible.... On August 19th 2009, Otto and I went for one last car ride on his favorite car towel (cause the seats in my PT are a little slick).
Stopped at a park near a fountain and had a lunch of his 3 favorite things (that he was not suppose to have); Cheese Fries and a Chicken Soft Taco (He was allergic to chicken)
And the Chicken Soft Taco didn't last long... Always the healthy appetite, that's for sure... :)
Then went to the Humane Society.... and I rubbed his ears (which was his most favorite thing since he was a puppy, and the reason I never had his ears clipped) until the very end.
And now I am alone.
There is a part of my mind that just does not understand why. I was raised on a farm, I grew up with family pets passing. Saint, our family schnoodle (poodle/schnauzer) that slept at the foot of my bed till I was 15. I had to have my Champion Doe (Starlight Dream) "put down". Sweet Serenade, Starlight's little sister, died in my arms on the way to the vet in the back of the truck. I am a grown man, with a farmer's background, I should be handling this with much more strength and decorum. This was suppose to be for the best...
Why does it ache so much? WHY does it hurt to breathe? Why am I being such a big "baby"?
But I know this pain. I have been here before. Twice actually.
I lost my best friend Krissy in 1996 to cancer, before I moved to San Diego. She was my confidant, she was always there for me, she had that zest for life. A "joie de vivre" that was infectious.
My best friend Ryan, who succumbed to pneumonia, had the same ability. To live life with such zeal, that you could not help but see joy in the smallest of things...
And now, I have lost my best friend, again. After 12 1/2 years of unconditional love, support through failed relationships, devotion when other friends walked away, and reassurance that no matter what was happening, everything would always be OK, because we had each other... I am bereft of my touch stone by something I am powerless against. Leaving me to feel helpless and inadequate; undeserving of the love and devotion he showed me, because I could not protect him and fight it off to keep him safe.
I let him down when he needed me the most.